Greetings from WisdomWithin!

Who the heck do I think I am, starting a little blog with such a potentially pretentious plaquard as “WisdomWithin”?

It’s been a long road, culminating this past year.


In 2016, I became a New York Certified Peer Specialist in Mental Health, with a goal toward encouraging mental health awareness, promoting self-advocacy and wellness; even more idealistically, reducing stigma and improving quality of life for our demographic.

Understand, that 20- 25% of the population will live with a mental health condition during their life time. That’s 1 in 4-5 people. Everyone knows someone living with a mental health condition. We are actually a very large group. Most of us are completely harmless, and … surprise… we are very much able to recover!

That NYCPS certification, is a fancy way to say I have lived mental health experience, lived mental health SYSTEM experience, follow a strict code of ethics, am willing to disclose and share my journey in an effort to be of help to others like me, and those who know and love us. This certification requires a level of ongoing education and work in the field, either directly with peers, or in contribution to the overall mental health awareness, advocacy and wellness community.

My work to date in this field has been voluntary, and in attempting to help organizations develop mental health awareness and peer support programs. “There come a time”, though, dear readers, when DOING it, has to take place of just talking about it. Hence, WisdomWithin. Self-taught techie, unfunded, but dedicated, studied and on a mission. Your interest, commentary and support are invited. This is intended as a safe space & a judgement free zone.

Welcome to Wisdom Within!

Too cool…

I’m sorry, Mr. President, I just emailed you earlier this afternoon to thank you and your family for your service, and for your support of the 21st Century Cares Act, bringing some real beginning steps to Mental Health Reform. (Not including that entire letter again here, lol.)

I cannot imagine you just sitting there, you know, chillin’, maybe catchin’ some games, kickin’ back with Uncle Joe… and all of a sudden, oh, another email from Kathy. What’s up girl?   Then, just tapping a quick message back…

Be that the case…. or not … I am honored, Sir, from the bottom of my heart.

Kathleen Surline, NYCPS
Founder, WisdomWithin: Encouraging Mental Health Awareness, Wellness, Self-Advocacy and HOPE

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A salute & a thank you…

Recieved via email 7.16.2016, in response to an online letter I had written to the President and First Lady, advocating for Mental Health Awareness, reform, education, reducing stigma, and more. I was beyond honored to receive a reply, and have written them again today, thanking him for his support of the 21st Century Cares Act, which does make some steps toward the diversity of work that needs to be done in mental health. I also wrote about this project. We’ve just started, and they are just changing chapters. With no political voice intended, and sincerely just as a fellow human and fellow citizen, In tribute to every positive thing accomplished and achieved during the work of the First Family these last eight years, I just share this, with respect…


The White House, Washington
Dear Kathleen:

Thank you for sharing your story. I have heard from many Americans whose lives have been affected by mental health problems, and I appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts.

As you may be aware, in any given year one in five adults experiences a mental illness such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or post-traumatic stress, and many others are troubled by significant emotional and psychological distress—especially in times of hardship or difficulty. They are our family members, friends, and neighbors, and I believe there are things we must all do to help. As a Nation, we can strive to eliminate the barriers that still keep people from accessing life-changing treatments. We can also make sure every person struggling with psychological and emotional pain knows that asking for help is not a sign of weakness—taking action is a sign of strength.

My Administration has worked hard to help increase mental health services and improve access to care. We are working with community health centers to expand the availability of behavioral and mental health services across the country, including in rural areas. And thanks to the Affordable Care Act, over 60 million Americans now have expanded mental health and substance use disorder benefits and parity protections. This law also prohibits insurers from denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions like a diagnosis of mental illness, and it requires most insurance plans to cover recommended preventive services without copays. Additionally, as part of the BRAIN initiative, we are supporting innovative research that aims to revolutionize our understanding of how the brain works and uncover new ways to address conditions like depression.

We continue to support our troops and veterans. I signed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act on February 12, 2015, which authorized additional steps to address mental health and prevent suicide. The year before, I announced 19 Executive actions that make it easier for members of our Armed Forces and veterans to access the care they need, when they need it—including a new policy that will ensure the continuity of medication for mental health problems as service members transition to care at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA has also worked to increase mental health staffing, enhance community partnerships, and expand the capacity of the Veterans Crisis Line.

To learn more about mental health assistance and health care reform, please visit http://www.MentalHealth.gov or http://www.HealthCare.gov. Calling 1-800-662-HELP is also a free, confidential way to receive a treatment referral or further information.

Again, thank you for writing. Michelle and I—like so many Americans—have known people who have experienced mental health problems, and we understand the effects these illnesses have on their lives and on their families. We must continue to work toward better prevention and treatment, and as caring individuals, we must do what we can to ensure those with mental health issues get the care and support they need and deserve.


Barack Obama
Visit WhiteHouse.gov

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First rule in a crisis situation…

First rule in a crisis situation?  Don’t panic.

I know; easier said than done. Nonetheless, its one of life’s simple truths.

Life, life, life, life, BOOM! Crisis….

Crisis + Panic = Possibly bigger crisis.

Example: You’ve been through some stuff and not well, and have tests and have met with specialists, and BOOM! Your illness, be it physical or mental, is causing your doctor to pull you out of work.

Crisis.  Personally, financially; the mind boggles.

Alright, let’s say we go with panic as our first response… hmmmmm… thinking….

Nope, can’t come up with a single positive outcome that will bring.

Not judging. I mean, I myself have gone with the panic response in a number of crisis situations. It’s a valid, and historically oft utilized option.I just haven’t found it productive in dealing with any particular crisis.

On the other hand, and maybe its just because I’m old now – do something the wrong way enough times, you eventually figure out you’re doing it wrong. The first thing, don’t panic, may involve counting to ten, some deep breathing, possible sitting down with a glass of water; just to regroup. But, I’ve taken a sort of new tack on the whole crisis response scenario. More like when my sons were young. There might be sounds of hollering and bumping around, echoing down the stairwell, then one of them screaming, “MOM!!!” Now of course, very early on, I was running to save them every dang time. I found this not only exhausting, but ineffective. It only increased the number of times this exact same scenario would play out.

Finally, Iimage learned to develop a much more straightforward and calm response, at least internally. If there isn’t blood involved, or damage to my home, they will have to work it out. Screaming my name because your younger brother has you pinned, does not constitute an emergency for ME.

But back to perhaps a slightly more complicated crisis, of being pulled out of work on disability. And it ends up being long-term.  Now, we have a monumental problem. Especially if our illness affects our ability to actually complete and submit our application for Social Security/Disability.  It is an extremely complex document, or set of documents, and at the time, I couldn’t read a sentence and understand it. But, no application, no approval, no monthly allowance, no food, no power, no water, no tax money (if you are a homeowner), etc.  And those applications take months for determination as well, so there goes whatever was in savings in the interim.

BUT, if the illness, as in my own experience, is mental health related, there is help! I hadn’t ever reached out for help before. Always paid my own way. Didn’t want to take from anyone else, you know?  Despite my despair and my fear, my own overwhelmedness left me with nowhere to turn.  I swallowed what little pride I thought I had left at the time, and called the Mental Health Association.

They were so understanding. Made me feel like they were absolutely there for me.  They had me come in to meet with one of their staff, who helped turn an insurmountable task into a completed and filed application. And, it was approved on the first submission! I found out later, it doesn’t always work that way.

I’ll be honest. When I went to see them, I was in a panic. But, as one of my symptoms, I get panic attacks, which were much worse back then. Before I left that first visit though, the panic was gone.  What a gift that was. I remain grateful for their presence, their acknowledgment of me as a person, and that they treated me with respect; not like the sad ball of jello I rolled in there as.

The Mental Health Association has been around a very long time, and, while they would likely be the first to admit they are not the best at marketing what they do, the variety of services and programs they offer, can be miraculous to someone totally out of their normal zone; whose reality has been changed so drastically. They are accepting of you as you are, and just about everyone who works there, came from something similar to what you are now going through.  They have a location nearly everywhere in the U.S., so go to MHA.org to find the folks nearest you!